No, You Can't Touch My Hair

Earlier this afternoon I was at Los Angeles' Griffith Park public pool with my kids. We were having a pretty good time. And that's despite the fact that some random old man hobbled by me and said, "Nice tits."

I was pretty shocked by his comment but he was gone before I could respond. To make things even stranger, he proceeded to walk over to an overweight pre-teen boy and say the same thing to him!

It was definitely a crazy moment, but it was a gorgeous afternoon so I contented myself with watching my sons splashing in the water and reading "O" magazine.

Unfortunately, the madness wasn't over. A few minutes later, a woman, a white woman, approached me, her hand extended toward my head. "Ooh your hair is sooo pretty. Can I touch it?"

I immediately leaned away out of her reach and said, "No."

Her response? A shocked and outraged, "Are you serious? I can't touch your hair?"

"No, you can't," I replied. I guess she's never seen my #donotpetmyafro hashtag on Twitter.

Indeed, she had the nerve to look confused and offended as she asked, "Why not?"

Really, lady? You want me to explain to you why I don't want you to touch my hair? Let's see...

Because you're a STRANGER.

Because I'm not an animal in the zoo.

Because this is my body and I don't have to let anybody touch any part of it, EVER, if I don't want to.

Because my black ancestors may have been your ancestors property, and had to smile while they got touched in ways they didn't want to, but I am not YOUR property and never will be so you'd best move your hand away from me.

I was so overwhelmed by anger that my mouth opened and no sound came out. I think my eyes must've had shown what I was feeling because she made this weird face, turned on her heel and huffily walked back over to her towel.

Unfortunately her towel was maybe 10 feet away from mine. Just great.

The pool was closing in 20 minutes so I yelled a five minute warning to my kids and got busy packing up our stuff. That's when I overheard the woman talking smack about me to her child.

"I'm a nice person and I try so hard to be nice to THEM, but I'm tired of trying to be nice to bitchy black women."

My kids hopped out of the water and began drying off, all while she threw me dagger looks and ranted to her child. "All I wanted to do was touch her hair. What's the big deal about that? She should be happy I asked to touch her hair."

My eight year-old caught on pretty quickly, "Is she talking about YOU, mommy?"

It made me so angry that my sons were being exposed to the situation. I wanted to hit something. I wanted to drag the woman to the side of the pool, hold her head under water and scream, "*&#*%^ TOUCH THIS!"

Instead, with as much dignity as I could, I hustled us out the door, tears of pure rage pricking my eyes.

I couldn't go over to her and explain why her request was not OK. Why should I have to explain, especially when I feel like nothing I would've said would've made it right? The only thing that would've made it all better is if I'd said, "I'm sorry you're upset. Go ahead and touch my hair."

She wanted to objectify me and have me go along with her request, a request that smacked of racial superiority and privilege. But when I didn't like it, I became the problem.

I know there are those who'll think this woman's behavior has nothing to do with racism and subconscious privilege, and is instead a matter of someone being rude and unable to respect personal boundaries.

Being rude and being racist are not mutually exclusive things. In this situation I'd say that this woman's attitude -- a black woman, with all her afro-y exoticness must let me touch her hair because I'm curious and I did ask-- is both rude AND racist.

In addition, her subsequent comments gave voice to the prevalent racist American stereotype that black women are bitches. But, like so many, this woman failed to recognize what role her own attitude may have in any negative interactions she may be having with black women.

With her comment that I should've been happy she said my hair was pretty, I found myself feeling like I could've been the slave that the missus had deigned to notice. "Isn't our colored woman's hair cute?"

I know there are those who think black women should let folks from other backgrounds touch their hair. How else will we learn about each other, right?

In that line of thinking, I was just being mean to someone who was merely trying to be open minded.

Here's the thing: I don't really like people touching my hair, period. I don't care who you are.

I don't ask to touch other people's hair, either. But if we have a relationship where we're really good friends and a piece of lint has blown into my hair and you're offering to get it out for me, OK, you can touch my hair.

Otherwise, let me say unequivocally, please don't try to use my hair as some sort of cultural learning experience. And don't expect me to be all, "Oh thank you, missus! You sho is thoughtful to notice ole nappy me!"

You want to know what a black woman's natural hair feels like? Get your own black female friends and ask them, not me. That is, if you can stop thinking we're bitches long enough for that to happen.


On the car ride home my sons rapid-fired question at me. They wanted to know what had gone down. As I explained to them what had occurred they were shocked and angered. "How dare she try to touch your hair! You're not her dog!"

Exactly!

Hours later, my eldest son keeps hugging me and saying, "I'm so sorry that happened to you, mommy. She had no right to treat you like that."

No, she had no right. But sadly, I'm sure this will not be the last time I have to say, no, you can't touch my hair.

Comments

Lenina said…
I'm so sorry this had to happen and even more to hear it won't be the last time, most likely.

I am sad when people make fun, disregard, demean or insult other people for a trait YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR!

People are not guilty of being certain race, or gender, not guilty of having been born in a poor country, or having certain sexual orientation, or having a congenital disease or disability... just had the "bad" luck of being a minority/ belonging to a weak group of people.

And it's bad luck because discrimination is still a raging issue pretty much everywhere. I also want to yell at those who might not want to be "that" racist/snob but speak with disdain, in a "I pity you" tone.

So difficult to address in a neutral way.
Ingrid said…
I hear you on not being an animal in a zoo. I don't mind if people touch my fro but its those folks who approach black hair like it's an exhibit @ the lincoln zoo park zoo that freaks me out.
Lotus Flower said…
WTF??? I'm sorry that happened to you Liz. You're a lot nicer then I am. Had that been me, she probably wouldn't be able to see right now. I've got to admire your decision to walk away from the situation. Especially since your two sons were with you. That woman's got problems. Obviously if she's going to make stupid comments like that -asking you to touch your hair like you're a pet chimpanzee - to every black woman she meets, then OF COURSE black women are not going to be cordial to her!

I've come across the types who turn confrontations into something racial when they don't get what they want. Like in 12th grade when one white chick tried to copy off my test and when I wouldn't let her she whispered, "you black bitch". Needless to say she had a nice beatdown come lunchtime.

Keep that intelligent head up, Liz.
Wait, I don't get it. Were you upset?

Also, you DO have nice tits.

I loved this post, in case my comments make that unclear.
Jameil said…
wow... WOW!!! CHICK!! FALL BACK!! Why don't people get how irritating that is?? Rashan said tomorrow we should all walk up to a white woman and ask to touch their hair. My big black boyfriend would scare the bejesus out of them I'm sure. Mocking aside, that is offensive. Touch your own hair, wench. Your son hugging you makes me even sadder about this situation. I have the tendency to react similarly when shocked like that by someone's actions. I think of the great stuff to say later. But her talking to her child would've been my pt. 2 AKA I've gathered my thoughts and it's time to go off... minus my own children. That is a very difficult situation to have to address w/your babies in tow.
Nina said…
Woah. I am so sorry you had to deal with that today. That is just so wrong. I haven't anything smart or analytical to say about it, just that that really, really sucks, especially with your kids with you.
You handled that situation very well.

I can't get over that women. This is going down in L.A. in 2009? Some folks are still that clueless?

Her comments were out of control. She really has no idea how rude and racist she is.
Tanya said…
Ugh, what a horrible experience. On a positive note, your son sounds like such a great kid: really wise and empathetic and caring. Horrible to think how screwed up that woman's child is going to be.
nick said…
How right you are, of course she was rude and racist. How could anyone not see that? "I try so hard to be nice to THEM" says it all. Obviously she has no right to touch your hair (or anything else) unless she's a good friend. What a patronising cheek.

You should have said to her "Your tits are so pretty, can I touch them?" and then acted shocked and offended when she refused. "God, these bitchy white women...."
Liz Dwyer said…
Lenina,
It won't be the last time -- it's already happened too many times already. Usually though folks don't even ask if they can touch my hair. They just do it.

Ingrid,
The "Aren't you so exotic" vibe bugs the heck out of me. I don't know if zoo animals get treated so poorly.

Mimi,
These days you have to walk away because you never know what is up with people. I'm way too paranoid. I worry about people trying to shoot or stab me b/c they don't like what I have to say. Plus, I know it's better for me to walk away since I don't do well once I lose my cool. :(

Kim,
Ha! Me and the preteen boy!

I was so upset, so angry that I had a hard time driving home.

Jameil
My friend Rhonda said I should've asked her if I could touch her booty. I NEVER think of saying stuff like that, ever.

Nina,
No smartness required. Your thoughts are appreciated. It is doubly hard to figure out how to address when kids are there because I don't want them to feel like you just have to take whatever b.s. comes your way. But I also didn't want to get into an argument and lose it in front of them.

NYC/CR,
Yep, people are that clueless, unfortunately. I'm sure she thinks she was being open minded and that she doesn't have a racist bone in her body. But there's a reason the Watts riots and the LA Riots happened in this city.

Cartographer,
My boy really is a great kid. I almost bawled the last time he came over and hugged me. He has such a kind and sensitive spirit.

The other woman's child couldn't have been older than 5 or 6. He just sat there on his towel, staring at her but not saying a word. Very sad for him.

Nick,
Unfortunately, so often here in the States it is thought that black people are just trying to see racism in everything. People try to say something is not racism when it so clearly is.
Anonymous said…
I am not sure this is "racism" (check out the definition), because we do not have enough information on the woman who asked to touch your hair.
For example, the woman's family could be "black", indeed she could be "black."
She could be a "black" empowerment leader, who knows? Therefore we cannot make judgements based on supposition, can we?
She may have mental health problems and bad issues? Who knows? Suppose this interaction made her relapse or slip into depression?
It is our calling and duty to educate the ignorant on matters of race and history, she probably was sent as a potential angel that was looking for direction and love- this was probably her only way of establishing connection and conversation? Supposing she had never spoken to a "black" person before and this is her only contact. Perhaps a lesson was missed, she could have been enlightened with love and understanding?
We all possess amazing powers of compassion, fairness, judgement and forgiveness.
Where is it written, though shalt not judge?
I know this is an emotional and highly charged personal thing so I cannot make a comment on your persional reaction but I am only stating what I would have tried to do. Or am I sadly missing the point?
With the utmost respect and love. x
Unknown said…
White people and the hair petting thing drives me crazy! They always want to touch my daughters' neatly braided hair and I always gently move my daughters aside and remind them later not to allow people to "pet" them.

I'm sad that this happpened to you and that your sons had to see it. But you handled yourself with such grace and class. I commend you.
Baiskeli said…
Oh my God!!!

I am so sorry this happened to you!!

I have more to say but I can't even think how to phrase it. This womans attitude is racism, privilege, rudeness all bundled into one compact package. And I dread to think what attitude her child is growing up with.

I know the touching hair thing happens a lot (a woman I used to work with went to HR when a senior employee touched her hair without asking and against her wishes). And I have heard of it many times, from subtle to not so subtle (I'd say yours falls quite far right of the not so subtle.

And you handled it well (though I think, for people as racist, rude and privileged as this woman, the hold her head under water option might actually been the only thing to get it into her head that what she did was unacceptable).

And to the anonymous poster who says this is not racist, I call bullshit. Why do people who have absolutely no effing clue stumble upon this blog and vomit out their ignorance and cluelessness. And to boot, the following comment


Suppose this interaction made her relapse or slip into depression?


Boo effing hoo!! So it is Los Angelista's fault that because she didn't want to be treated like an animal this woman then gets depressed!! Are you serious!
Lucrecer said…
This story took me back to many a time when people have either touched my hair without permission or assumed they could. I especially hate (yes, hate) it when people assume they can touch my children. You want to talk about a mother hen ready to take someone's eyes out.

I love that you shared this story and I hope women of other colors read this and see their responsibility to women of color. Until we start respecting each other, men will not respect us as they should. I also take issue with the assumption black women are all bitches. It is a pathetic way to think about another person and truly sad. Sad that woman assumed she could touch you and then get pissed about it. Her approach could have been totally different with coming to you and saying she admired your hair. Screw her for making her issue into your issue.
BCopher said…
You definitely handled the situation very well. I, an afro wearing woman, often have this happen to me. But not just by white women but black women who want to go natural as well. For some reason, they think I'm the go to chick for allt hings black hair related. I have also been yelled at when the tips that work for my hair, don't work for theirs. I no long give out advice all willy nilly.
The worse was 2 weeks ago when a woman walked up to me, arms extended, ready to touch my hair. After blocking her, she stood back, looked salty, and reached again. Ok. No you can't touch my hair. You don't know me and I have no idea where you're hands have been.

I really don't understand what makes people think this is acceptable.
I'm a first time reader, thanks to Afrobella, and I'll definitely be back.
Anonymous said…
"Do I look like a stray dog to you? What makes you think I want you to touch me?" "Are you insane?"

I had braids for many years. These work just fine, especially when you affix your face with a smile for the demented OR react with "high horror."
Nerd Girl said…
Dear God! I cannot stand to have my hair touched either - and I don't care who is doing the touching. I wish that I couldn't believe she behaved they way she did, but sadly, I believe it. I'm sorry that you had to experience this.

I am not certain how I would react in that situation, but please believe I'm now running come-back lines through my head just in case!
Anonymous said…
When people ask me this, I use very subtle humor to deflect: something like, "Never on the first date!" This works great if you use the clutch-your-pearls tone of voice. It sends the message that their request inappropriately over-familiar and assumes an intimacy that they don't have. But it's less confrontational so it takes out the heat of the situation (if you want that.)
Maria Melee said…
Augh. My stomach is in knots reading this. I'm so sorry you went through that.

I try not to nurture vindictive thoughts, but hateful people like that woman deserve a bucketfull of karma.

Your kids sound awesome.
LMAlphonse said…
This doesn't happen to me that often anymore, but it did when I was a child. And it happens to my youngest daughter -- who has a wonderful, soft, puffy afro -- all the time. She's not quite 5, and she usually replies, "Sure... if can I feel yours?"

It's amazing how many grown woman snatch their hands back quickly and mutter an excuse when a sweaty, fresh-off-the-sandy-playground 5-year-old wants to play with *their* hair.
Chookooloonks said…
Having had this happen to me *many* times, I almost felt a bit jealous reading your story -- at least she ASKED. Every time it's happened to me, I just felt hands in my hair, and turned around to someone saying sheepishly: "I couldn't help myself."

*sigh*

People are dumb.

I hate that she was so horribly ugly. But that karmic boomerang is a bitch, man. She'll get hers.
Margaret said…
Your post reminds me about the many times my young daughter was objectified when we lived in Germany (especially when we were on holiday somewhere in Europe). The older people (males and females) would rub her face (?) and touch her hair...without asking. Most times they would 'sneak' and do it. I didn't want to take any chances in mangling whatever language they spoke, so I perfected THE BEST 'get your damn hands off my daughter' stare.
I'm really upset that you were labled as a 'bitchy black woman' because you didn't allow her to touch your hair!
Clabber Girl said…
Well, I'm white, and I have curly blonde hair. My sister dyes her hair Mary-Jane from SpiderMan red. We have both been asked (often) by strangers who want to touch our hair. And some folks just reach out and touch without asking. Airplanes and gas stations, for some reason, are especially touchy places. I don't think it's racially motivated. I think it's curiosity-- "hey, that looks different and kinda cool, I wonder what it's like." And if you have a big beautiful afro, it's probably the same thing. No, you're not in a petting zoo, and if you don't want to be touched, you have the right to say no. But I don't think it's fair to impugn the woman of being racist because of her reaction. She could have been feeling angry because her feelings were also hurt by being denied. She may have felt like you thought SHE wasn't good enough, clean enough, deserving enough to touch your hair.
Nerd Girl said…
@ Clabber Girl, if the woman had not said:

"I'm a nice person and I try so hard to be nice to THEM, but I'm tired of trying to be nice to bitchy black women."

then perhaps race could be taken off the table as an issue here, but when she played that card and said that about Los Angelista SHE made it obviously racial.
Nerd Girl said…
Ooh, Los Angelista - that was not to argue with another reader (per your comment guidelines). Not trying to start an internet beef - no disrespect intended to you or Clabber Girl!
Candi said…
My gosh, I'm sorry.

"She should have been glad I asked to touch her hair."

Wow, really? That is incredibly superior to me.

I've had to deal with racism in an opposite sense. When I was in a supervisory position at my job there were a couple of people who were convinced that if they got in trouble (for breaking the rules) or didn't get a promotion it was "because they weren't the right color" and would say so. It made me sad because I was raised to not ever, ever believe you are superior to anyone regardless of their color or race, and I always treated everyone the same. The race thing NEVER even entered my mind.

It was disheartening that I couldn't be their friend because they were convinced I didn't like them, regardless of my actions, and it was also sad to me that they ever had to feel discriminated against at all, because I think I'd get defensive, too, after taking it so long.

I have been around people who use the "N" word casually in reference to any african american person, and I heartily oppose it. I have so many friends of different ethnicities and it really bothers me when people are comfortable being snooty, superior, and completely segregated.

That is so sweet that your son wanted to be there for you after that woman's rude comments. It sounds like you have a great kid!
Candi said…
Oh and by the way, in case my comment was unclear, I am not suggesting your reaction was in any way "defensive" or unmerited -- I was referring to the individuals I had worked with and some of their words to me.

You shouldn't have to let people touch your hair if you don't want to.

Hope you have a great day!
Ariel said…
I just found you and I really like you. :)
That woman was the bitch and I'm sorry.
Personal space should respected, period. It doesn't matter WHY you want it.
This may sound silly, but the first time I touched a black person's hair was when I was starting out in health care and had to wash this sweet little lady's hair and I was surprised that it felt different. I grew up in a tiny town in Idaho and simply hadn't met any black people, and I didn't know that it was different. It just hadn't occurred to me. But even had I known, and been curious, I wouldn't have asked because people used to touch my hair, because it was LONG, like down to my butt long and I hated having strange people touch me. And now I'm really glad I never asked because I would have been mortified/ashamed/horrified to make someone feel as uncomfortable and angry as that woman made you. It's just not right that she was angry.
The only other way I can relate is when I was pregnant and everyone thought that it was open season on my belly.
Anyway, I hope my comment makes sense and doesn't offend because if I did I didn't mean to.
1969 said…
All I can say is that I am sorry you were placed in that situation. I am also sorry your kids were present. (hugs)
Lisa Blah Blah said…
Screeeeeeeeeeeeeem! I can't tell you how many times I have had this issue with people touching either my daughter's carefully oiled and braided hair or mine when it's "big and wild". They don't even ask! Honestly, half the time I slick my hair back into a bun because I hate the attention I get when I wear it out.

I think you handled yourself well. So sorry your kids had to hear that. I am appalled that the woman (a) did that to you; (b) based on this one encounter, then reduced you to one of "those bitchy black women"; and (c) also, yes, used the word "bitchy" to her 5 or 6-year-old son. What also disturbs me is that she is going to get some mileage out of this story, probably telling it over and over with self-righteous indignation. "You see how THEY are?!"

Also, to Clabber Girl - I have to respectfully disagree with you. People touching your hair is not the same thing, and downplaying a hateful incident is not cool. This was clearly a racial issue. If Nerd Girl's explanation wasn't enough, please read this.
Liz Dwyer said…
Anonymous 4:38 a.m.
Thanks for your thoughts. I could probably write a few pages in response. Hmm... Are you saying that maybe if she was, for example, 1/8th black and 7/8 white, it wouldn't be racism? Well, black people know how to do internalized racism quite well, so her possibly being black doesn't excuse the behavior. And if she's a black empowerment leader she probably wouldn't be referring to black women as bitches. At least I hope not.

Mental health issues are always a possibility. I also wondered that. But as far as who slips into depression, not that I don't care about this woman but quite frankly, I'm more concerned at this point with my own mental health than hers. I'm also more concerned about the mental health impact on my children due to their having to hear someone talking about their mother like this.

I don't know about the angel thing. But following your logic, what if she was a demon trying to suck me into some sort of negativity? Her energy was off right from the get go. There was no warmth. Her vibe was weird, creepy, quite aggressive and controlling.

In general I have a hard time setting boundaries with people, so for me to say no to this woman was actually a pretty big deal for me.

My instincts told me that I didn't need to serve as an educational opportunity for her. I think we need to ask ourselves why is it that black people are expected to be the educators on issues of race. There's a good blog post
on another site
that might be interesting for you to read. I agree with a lot of the thoughts there.

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I'm curious to know what your response is to mine.
Mes Deux Cents said…
Liz,

Sorry to hear about this Saartji Baartman moment. It's a testament to how race and gender are the third rail of American society. It's also a testament to how strong the legacy of Slavery and Jim Crow are.

It seems like at this point in many ways this nation is regressing with regard to race. Which is interesting since so many people thought having a Black President would make a difference.
Heather B. said…
All I could say while reading this was 'oh my God. oh my God'. I always say that under these circumstances I would easily lose my shit and go off and blah blah blah but I know wouldn't because how does one respond to something like that?

Yeah, I would probably say "don't touch me" but I know I would be fearful about it like I was the one doing something wrong.

Man, I'm just sorry, Liz. That's...awful
Liz Dwyer said…
Ms. Wooden Shoes,
Ugh, people try to touch my son's hair sometimes but I can imagine it would be worse if I had girls with more/longer hair. I'm glad you tell people not to.

Baiskeli,
I couldn't think of how I wanted to phrase things either when it happened. I was so speechless. And oh gosh, how completely awkward and wack to have a higher up at work touch your hair. Because if you say no to them, you're worried they're going to retaliate in the workplace.

I agree that it wouldn't have been my fault if the woman slipped into depression b/c of the interaction.

Lucrecer,
I don't like people touching my kids either. Unless you're family or almost family, don't touch my sons!

I'm glad you said that other women have a responsibility to women of color. There needs to be much more advocacy and less of the bitch labeling.

Bcopher,
Glad you came to visit from Afrobella. I love her! So this woman reached twice to touch your hair? Wow, that's bold.

Amen on one hair routine not working for someone else. That's the truth! I sometimes get other black women asking if they can touch my hair and it's probably my own bias but I don't mind as much. Maybe it's the vibe, the energy of it, the sincerity of it that matters. We so often don't know what our own natural hair feels like, and sometimes I think it can help another black woman understand that hey, it's just hair, you will survive if you stop relaxing.

Anonymous 6:40 AM,
Maybe next time I should say that I have lice... ;)

Nerd Girl,
I was waiting for the cameras to jump out and for me to be told I was on some sort of candid camera style reality show! Sadly, that never happened.

Anonymous 7:47 AM
The humor's a good approach. I can see that. Maybe she wouldn't have flipped out quite so much if I'd used that approach.
Liz Dwyer said…
Mommy Melee,
Thanks for saying my kids sound awesome. They definitely are! I try not to nurture vindictive thoughts either but sometime it is HARD! A day later, I feel sorry for the woman's child more than anything.

Lylah,
I love your daughter! And I love that you're raising her up to believe she doesn't have to let other people violate her personal space. More of our girls need that.

Chookooloonks,
Oh yes, being asked instead of just being attacked is preferable. I've been attacked everywhere from the snack line at the movies to the ATM line at the bank. For me, her comments after I said no are more disturbing than anything. And more telling.

Margaret,
They'd touch your daughter's face??? What in the world!

Sadly, it's not the first time I've been labeled as a bitchy black woman. I'm sure it won't be the last.

Clabber Girl,
I've been wanting to color my hair Mary Jane Spiderman red!

I do think that race was involved. White woman and black women can both experience people touching their hair inappropriately, but it means different things and is rooted in an entirely different social and historical context. Plus, her comments to her child after I said no were quite telling. Wish she hadn't said that stuff to her child. :(

Nerd Girl,
Yes, exactly. Her comments afterward were quite indicative. LOL! You are not violating my little guidelines. I merely mean when people start attacking each other personally and ranting back and forth in the psycho way that happens on some sites. Healthy dialogue is always welcome!

Candi,
I thought it was crazy superior acting a well! It reminded me of how when men try to holler at you on the street, and then when you aren't checking for them, they cuss you out on the street.

I'm sure the situation at your job is hard. People of color often do fail to get promoted because of race or get "in trouble" but others (students and employees) from non-black backgrounds don't, even if the do the same things. Of course, if you don't screw up, you can't get in trouble, period.You're right, folks do get defensive -- because there's very real crap out there they need to defend themselves against. Wish it wasn't the case. Black folks have been thru and continue to go thru alot. Just keep being loving, no matter what.
Liz Dwyer said…
Ariel,
So glad you found me! :) I 100% agree that personal space should be respected and it doesn't need to be justified AT ALL! I'm glad your experiences have given you the insight to know not to just up and touch folks hair just because you're curious.

1969,
I love my boys and my eldest even asked me this morning if I was OK. But it makes me sad that they know more about race than some adults. When you're a child of color, you have to know.

Lisa,
And all in Los Angeles. It's weird how folks think racist things can't happen in this town, and in our area of town no less.
I'm sure she's told folks how mean I was to her. I can just hear her going on and on about it. Sigh.

Mes
Oh it is SO one of those moments. In our modern world, folks would probably tell her that it's not racism honey. They'd tell her to work it as long as she was getting paid.

It is the third rail. It seems like all the stuff that's been shoved under the rug is being forced out into the open. It's painful but in the end I hope it'll be good. We have to get it all out in the open in order to heal.

Heather B,
YES! It IS that fear that you're the one doing something wrong, but then you think to yourself, wait a doggone minute! That's the insidious thing about racism. It makes you question your own sanity, your own ability to see what's right in front of you.
Wow, I think you're starting to live my life.

That kind of weirdness that goes on all the time - WTF - no you can't touch my (fill in the blank)

Sheez.

I'm really sorry you had to go through that. How awful.
Mes Deux Cents said…
Liz,

"...They'd tell her to work it as long as she was getting paid..."

That is so true!
AMm2studios said…
I'm always amazed that this kind of stuff happens in a big, 'progressive' city. Unbelievable. It reminds me of strangers just touching or trying to touch your pregnant belly and PERSONAL property, but with some racism added in (intentional or not) for added offense.

I have to admit I loved your hair when we met because it reminds me so much of my girls' and I hope they embrace their natural beauty as they grow up and not try to conform to something else (they don't have a choice now because I'm calling the shots). :)But I cannot imagine just reaching out and touching it or even asking to touch it.

This happens all the time with my biracial daughters (who are just 4 and 6) but people don't even ask. They just start touching their hair and commenting on their beautiful spiral curls and oh my are they just like that or do I have to curl then and oh they're so lucky; etc. etc. I'm always taken aback because 1) they're objectfying my children, within ear shot, and my girls have MUCH MUCH more to offer this world than their perceived beauty; and 2) you don't just start touching someone's child - a stranger's child! - whether it's to 'compliment' them or not. But in all the times this has happened to us, I've never said anything, other than 'yes, and even more important, they're very bright and kind too.'I don't know what else to say. I don't want my children to see me get upset and think there's something wrong with their hair because they might not understand why this is offensive at this age. I talk to them about it after-the-fact but I think I'm missing an opportunity here to empower them about their bodies.

Sorry you experienced this but so glad you shared it here.
Karina in T.O said…
Way to stay classy Liz. I fear had that been me I would have spouted off some profanity that would turn that cows face red. That is of course after I pick my jaw up off the ground from shock.

How dare she A) bust into your personal space B) feel like she has the RIGHT to do anything simply because she asked, and then C) tossed off a clearly racist comment! Honestly, some people's ignorance and flat out balls shocks me.

Kudos to your boy for being both smart and supportive of his mom.
I'm sorry she put a damper on your day at the pool with your son.
Girl, you have some restraint. That is beyond rude, especially with the comments you overheard. I'm so sorry.

I have to say, as a 34-year-old white woman, I have never had another white adult ask to touch my hair. But my four-year-old AA son has people broachig his boundaries on a regular basis. So yes - I would agree this is a racial issue.
Anonymous said…
Now that I have passed 40, I no longer have issues with setting strong boundaries, especially with strangers. Hey, I finally learned, if you won't advocate passionately for yourself, who will?

To the stupid woman:

No, you can't touch my hair just to satisfy your curiosity. I don't know you, and honestly, that is more than a bit inappropriate.

Then there is always, the make her look stupid by asking lots of questions tactic:

Why do you want to touch my hair? Is this something you do often to random strangers? What about my hair is so compelling as to bring you over here with the hopes of touching it?

Boundaries, boundaries...even if they don't understand them, they must respect them.
Anonymous said…
that is bizarre.
for the record, no one has ever asked to touch my hair.
I feel totally sick for reading this. I cannot begin to fathom people who behave like that and have no clue that they are racist, insulting, and appallingly ignorant.

It's horrible that your children were exposed to such shockingly poor behavior but if anything beneficial can come out of this, it's that it will make them more sensitive to the problems faced by black women when they grow up. (Or in your little one's case, right now if some of those 4,000 girlfriends happen to have curly hair.)

I would have helped you hold her head under water, just so you know.
April said…
What a crock. I'm so sorry this happened to you.
allison sara said…
this is HORRIFFIC. And with your kids along, too. Geez. Who dug up this woman, and from where? =P
Liz Dwyer said…
Claudia,
A couple people I know have been going on and on about Mercury being in retrograde and that's why folks are acting all nuts. Maybe there's something to that?

Mes,
Yes, folks nowadays would be asking how THEY could get that "job" too.

AMm2studios,
I've been thinking a lot about how LA is not as progressive as it seems. A couple years ago I saw the stat that LA County has the biggest extremes of wealth and poverty in the US. We certainly have more homelessness -- and lots of NIMBYism.

Yes, your girls have SO much more to offer the world than the texture of their hair. Thank goodness they have you for a mom so they grow up knowing that instead of thinking the physical is all they have to offer. (hugs)

Karina,
I was thinking the profanity in my head, trust me. My son is STILL asking me about it. He really wants to get to the bottom of what was "really" going on.

Kristin,
I was recounting the whole thing, including the creepy old man, to my mom this morning and at a certain point I just burst into laughter because really, it's either laugh or cry about the crap that goes on in this world. Sigh.

How do you react when people ask to touch your son's hair?

Teendoc,
As my sons get older I've gotten better about setting boundaries because I've realized I have to model that for them. But it's hard for me. It really is.

Wheelsonthebus,
Totally bizarre. Glad you don't have to get a #donotpetmyafro t-shirt, too! ;)

Heart,
But if we hold her head underwater, we'd be charged with assault, right? That would be bad. That would mean no more blogging.

It makes me sick, too, but if any good comes out of it I suppose it is that they are learning very well what the realities of the world are and what they need to stand up against. That is a good thing.

April,
Thanks, it definitely goes down as one of 2009's most wack episodes in my life.

Allison Sara,
Good question. She probably lives around me somewhere since that's a community pool. I wonder if I'll run into her ever again.
Unknown said…
Unfortunately, the madness wasn't over. A few minutes later, a woman, a white woman, approached me, her hand extended toward my head. "Ooh your hair is sooo pretty. Can I touch it?

Aaaaaahhhhhh I HATE THIS. My husband's friend has a wife who will ask me this all the time. I am not a damn petting zoo.

"I'm a nice person and I try so hard to be nice to THEM, but I'm tired of trying to be nice to bitchy black women."

It scares me to know she is instilling racism in her child. You're bitchy because she can't do whatever she wants to you.

---------

It is our calling and duty to educate the ignorant on matters of race and history, she probably was sent as a potential angel that was looking for direction and love- this was probably her only way of establishing connection and conversation? Supposing she had never spoken to a "black" person before and this is her only contact. Perhaps a lesson was missed, she could have been enlightened with love and understanding?

It's not my job to educate the ignorant. If they choose to be culturally unaware, I cannot make them so. They should want to learn, not just assume, and I shouldn't feel obligated to teach them. Call me a black bitch, but I am tired of the "ask a black person" diatribe from others, especially when they are just asking about "why do black people do (insert stereotype here)" Not to mention this woman went on to have the audacity to get upset and teach her child more racism. She tried to be nice "to them"? She is too stupid to have to explain anything to.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shiona said…
Ugh! How annoying. I'm sorry this happened to you.
Liz Dwyer said…
Siditty,
What she was teaching her child breaks my heart. A lot. The little boy just sat there looking at her, listening, and soaking it all in. We teach it to each other and pass the sickness along.

Crafty Mama/Jumabella,
Glad you happened on my blog, too. The way she talked about me to her son was definitely the most shocking thing about the whole incident. I just can't imagine what was going on in her head to say what she did to him.

Shiona,
I'm sorry it did, too. But it's spurred a lot of thinking on my part and dialogue too. So I guess it's not all a bad thing.
Anonymous said…
I like this blogg topic which has probably had more responses than any other in a long time. Furthermore, I am Liz's number one fan but this does not mean I cannot disagree with her.
Liz I know my response irritated you to hell! Anonymous bloggers are always the most tricky cos we usually need some background knowledge of the person to try and understand where they are coming from.
This second response is to participants and to Liz Herself.

Race is nearly always a very emotive issue, this is clear in the various peoples reactions.

Firstly, I am trying not to judge anyone, secondly, why is everyone so highly strung? Silly question I know but are WE continuallly going to react in a the same way to these type of acts? Where is our evolution and development? How long has this been happening? Many, many years!
Spiritually where do you stand? Forget history, economics, sociology, psychology, etc, I like to deal with it from a spiritual perspective. Simply, that no matter what, we should always try to show compassion, (check the definition), if we cannot do this then we are not the people we claim to be or indeed want to be.

Why do we judge people in this way? Condemnation and scorn which can be quite virulent. For example you people do not even know me yet you are quick to condemn my opinions in a very robust and defensive way. Defending Liz like she needs defending. This makes me not want to post anymore opininions because the negative reactions scare me. I do not want to upset anyone, I was only joining in a global discussion on a very important issue. I do not have to conform to the status quo's opinion. I do not have to have a shared history or viewpoint or hold the same opinions. This makes me feel unsure about control and conformity and about honest, open, truthful discussion. I do not think like everyone else because I do not want to. I want to find the beauty in things and people, I want to show people love and make the world a better place. I want to start by concentrating on myself and try to be a wonderful human being, (like Liz's kids will be), I want to show amazing powers of self control and empathy. I want to help the weak, the poor and to put others before myself.
This is not a judgement on Liz's reaction or the other womans reaction, this is an attempt all though not a very articulate attempt,(cos words fail me), at trying to explain that I would have tried to handle the situation in a different way. It was how I was taught from all the holy books that I have read and how I was brought up by my two lovely parents.
Other peoples menatl health and emotional wellbeing are always a consideration whenever I interact with other people so I stand firm on what I previously said in that I would have handled it differently, however you probably wouldnt be you if you did not react the way you did.
I am not here to educate people around racism, I am here maybe to show spiritual strength, love, foregiveness and understanding.

I know its a big challenge but hey I am sure we should all be giving it a good shot?

This is an interesting thought provoking discussion, keep up the good works Liz!

Guidance and protection.
Anonymous said…
hi!

new to your site, here via Angry Black Woman and What Tami Said blogs...

I just wanted to say I'm really sorry this happened to you. I was touched by your son comforting you - he must be very wise and compassionate.

It's so hard to come up with witty rejoinders when you're so surprised and rage-filled, and your kids are watching. But I'm glad you were able to talk about it later and that you're getting lots of tlc from your readers...

Be well, anna
jstele said…
Well, I agree that it was racist of her to want to touch your hair after what she had said to her son.

Anyways, I'm sure you could find a way to summarize the main points of this article so that you will know how to respond if it happens again. Something like, "No, I am not a petting zoo."

If you were referring to a previous comment that I had made on another post, I do believe that racism is inherently rude. But Nene, I felt, was mainly just rude.
ldy said…
As a white woman, with an African daughter, I really appreciate this post. While there is no way in Hel* I would ever ask any man/woman/child to touch their hair (or any part of their body), I truly didn't understand the under-lying racial issues of a white person asking a black person to do this. People do ask to touch my daughters hair, and I never know if I should say yes... or no. I think I'll be saying no from now on. Thank your so much for sharing your experience so that I could learn from it. Im sorry that bit*h reacted in such a negative way to you wanting to keep your own space.
Liz Dwyer said…
Anonymous,
You only irritated me a little! :)

Moreso, your comments inspired me to write an entirely new post about some things I've been thinking about this. Please don't feel like you can't comment anymore. It's so hard to truly dialogue over the internet and I do value your thoughts quite a bit so keep it coming if you feel inclined.

Fannyanns,
Welcome! Yes, my boy is quite wise. He's had an "old soul" since he was born. I learn a lot from him.

It takes me awhile to process things so I'm awful at the witty rejoinder. But maybe that's not so bad?

Jstele,
I'm just gonna attach stickers to my hair that say, "I have lice. Do not touch."

No, wasn't thinking about any previous comments you'd made. Just about attitudes I see online and in the media.
Liz Dwyer said…
Idy,
Thanks for visiting and sharing what you're thinking regarding your experiences with your daughter. We can't figure out this stuff if we don't step out on a limb and share, and I'm happy to do so.
BritHistorian said…
I just read this through the link at Stuff White People Do. I wish that that woman could somehow happen to read this entry, so that she could possibly gain some insight into how the incident looked from your side.

I'm sorry that this happened to you, and sorry that your kids had to see it.
modest-goddess said…
That woman's behaviour was outrageous and racist. I think you responded in the best way possible under the circumstances. I'm sorry that you and your children experienced this.
Marlo said…
I'm so sorry that happened to you and that it will likely happen again and again. I am glad that you wrote about it though. Your post helped me crystallize my thoughts on hair touching. My almost four year old twins are always having to cope with adult strangers and other kids trying to touch their hair without an invitation or even a warning.
(Note: My comment was too long to be accepted in one post. I have broken into two. Sorry about that. Here is part 1.)

You were perfectly right to snap at that white woman who touched your hair; and it is very good that your children seem to understand that.

I would like to offer something additional. First I should say that I am a white-appearing ethnic Italian.

(Necessary aside: I do not identify as "white", because "white" identity entails nothing but a claim to domination. This is precisely the reason that Italians, who were not considered "white" 100 years ago, sought -- and attained -- this status. Still, while I know that I am not "white", a designation which in my view is properly applied only to the ethnicities of northern Europe, and never to those of the Mediterranean, I am aware that others see me as "white", and that I therefore possess white privilege.)

I'd like to add some perspective that may explain (though not excuse) the otherwise-incomprehensible attitude of white people who invade your space like this.

Racists often characterise the black body as disgusting or dirty, and express revulsion at physical contact. And this thinking is not limited to the days of the Jim Crow laws; it is still accepted by a large percentage of whites -- recall the recent case of black children being ejected from a Philadelphia swimming pool, and also the ongoing problem of segregated high school proms in the South. Indeed, all people who are raised to be white and who are enculturated into white culture (this includes me) are exposed to this thinking. The people who accept this view are ideologically racist.

But, there are some whites who do not hold to this view, and who actually do not experience any visceral disgust with respect to black bodies. These people think of themselves as non-racist, on these very grounds. Of course, such people, ensconced in their white-normative cocoon, protected by their majority status and their white privilege from ever having to think this through any further, are nevertheless culturally racist.

To these whites, an expression of what they perceive as their non-racism may well come through physical contact -- the very physical contact which is considered taboo by the ideological racists. But, of course, these culturally racist "non-racists" will likely never have considered the possibility that their act of touching might be seen by someone black as an invasion, as an indignity. They cannot conceive of this because it lies outside their culturally-engrained norms.
(Part 2)

They also will have learned some things through their culture that reinforce their unconsciously-held view on touching black people. For instance, no retelling of the history of Jackie Robinson is complete without the account of Pee Wee Reese (a white Southerner, and the Brooklyn Dodger captain) embracing Robinson on the field.

A few years ago, New York City even erected a statue in honour of this moment. At the dedication, the borough president of Brooklyn said, "When Pee Wee Reese threw his arm around Jackie Robinson's shoulder in this legendary gesture of support and friendship, they showed America and the world that racial discrimination is unacceptable."

The white hair-touchers are, I believe, operating under some superficial misunderstanding of this sort of event. Thanks to their privilege, these whites are constrained neither by the need to understand the context of that act in its time, nor to analyse how the lesson of that act could really be applied to their own behaviour. They just touch, and then act surprised and hurt when the black person doesn't see it their way.

So, I hope that this helps to explain this hair-touching phenomenon -- though certainly without excusing it. I must also emphasise that my identifying this hair-touching phenomenon as "cultural racism" as opposed to "ideological racism" in no way seeks to diminish its gravity; nor am I claiming that the cultural sort of racism is a less serious problem than the ideological sort.

Cultural racism is a huge problem -- perhaps even larger than the ideological kind. At least the ideological racists self-identify as racist and openly promote white superiority -- no mystery there. The cultural racists, on the other hand, don't accept that they are racist; they seek to use the language of unity, humanity, and other do-gooder-isms, thereby polluting the conceptual waters and making debate on the issue virtually impossible.

I must again add that I applaud your anger at this intolerable expression of racism which you experienced. You have set a good example for your children.
JonesEthiopia said…
Wow, I really like how she made the comment that she was being NICE by asking to touch your hair. I'm white and blonde. And I HATE it when people touch my hair, which is nothing special. However, I'm also the mama of a beautiful AA daughter, with hair that gets a lot of attention. I want to thank you for this post. It helps me to know I'm doing the right thing when I tell people to BACK OFF (sometimes nicely, sometimes not), when they try to touch my daughter's precious hair.
M
ShortWoman said…
Right on!

Even though I'm a white chick, I once had to deal with hair-touchers. I've got red hair. I was in the library minding my own business when this woman comes up to me, touches my hair in wonderment. I was absolutely shocked! I mean really what the heck makes people think they can do this?

She said "What beautiful red hair! Do you get it from your mother or your father?"

Still startled, I answered "L'Oreal!"
Delux said…
I'm late, but i had to respond to this.

"It is our calling and duty to educate the ignorant on matters of race and history"

This woman *was* educated. She was educated that the OP has boundariees about being fondled by strangers. What she didnt get was what she wanted-- free reign to the OPs hair. There is a difference.

Educating ignorant people does not mean that their ignorance needs to be catered to and cuddled.
Anonymous said…
i found this through "stuff white people do". first of all, i really enjoy the way you write and already have tabs open from other posts on here that i plan on reading after this. second of all, even after reading the comments here and after knowing that it happens to a friend of mine, i still CANNOT get over the fact that people think it's acceptable to touch a stranger's hair without permission. how incredibly inappropriate and creepy. also i agree with someone else who commented here--i really wish that woman would read this post.

people are insane. at least you got to watch an old man ask a teenage boy about his "tits". i'm an idiot laughing out loud to myself right now because of that lovely anecdote.
Lola Gets said…
Um, can I touch your hair??
:)

L
Unknown said…
Liz, I'm on the late freight with comments on this post, but I just wanted to let you know that I got here through a Facebook page that I became a fan of called "The Project on Race in Political Communication". I clicked on an article written by one of your readers (Tami, of What Tami Said)who quoted some of your writing and linked to this article. And why not? It's an excellent piece, as demonstrated by all the comments!

I read it when it was first published, and I wanted to comment, but I've been dealing with too many deadlines and too much social media networking! I just wanted to let you know that you've gone seriously viral, which is a REALLY GOOD THING these days for writers! Go on wit' yo' bad self! :-)

BTW- I HATE it when people want to touch my hair, too! Ugh! I understand where anonymous is coming from, and I know I have to let go of the past and seek to deal with people on a more spiritual basis. It's a process, and not an easy one, especially now with the racial climate of the United States becoming more heated as days go by.

The image I have is of roaches that have been hiding and multiplying for years in the kitchen walls' sheet rock and insulation, and one day they all come spilling out from between the cracks in the walls into the kitchen in tidal wave of nastiness. The roaches were there all the time, we just didn't see them. Now it's time to deal with the problem. Not a very loving or spiritual way to view racism, but it's the only analogy that makes sense to me right now.

I guess I'm talking the disease of racism that infects people more than the people themselves. I can love the people, but still address and be tough on the disease. If I don't view the issue in that light, I'm going to take what certain people say to me (and they've said a LOT in the past few weeks) very personally. And that's not good, believe me. No one likes to see me get angry because logic need not apply when I start going uber-Hulk.

Congratulations, Liz, and keep up the good work!
Stella Omega said…
I'm another latecomer, found the link on a livejournal community.

As a fellow Angelina, my first thought was just how many of those insane, self-entitled women-- and men-- live in L.A. And they do. in one of your comments, you mention the probability that her mental health was... lacking. And I bet it is. I would bet she objectifies the entire world-- everyone in it are her dollies, or maybe characters on a TV screen walking around for her amusement.

And this is what allows her to give voice to the racism that was already there.

I'm so sorry you encountered her, and I bet she made a lot of other people sorry that day, too...
julie said…
Thanks for this. I'm a white woman married to an Afro-Cuban man who has dredlocks and I can't tell you how many people ask if they can touch his hair, take photos with him, or ask if he's a "rasta man," all as if he's a zoo animal or as if it's funny. He's much more generous about it than I am; it leaves me really outraged.
Syd said…
I understand the annoyance but I don't think the anger is necessary. I think that you should have been able to tell by the shock on her face when you said "No" that she did not mean her request to be offensive. People are curious about things they are not familiar with and while asking a stranger if you can touch them is weird I do not think it is in anyway racist. I am white, which I hope does not lead people to immediately ignore/discount my comment, and I traveled to rural China when I was younger. While I was there I cannot tell you how many people touched my hair and my skin (some asked, some didn't). I will say that having complete strangers touch you, especially without asking, is unnerving and uncomfortable but not once did I think that they were being racist in their curiosity. I think you had the opportunity to educate this woman on her ignorance and explain to her why her actions may be offensive to black women but instead you let your anger get the better of you, and yes, you most likely kindled some amount of racism in her. I have been in a relationship with a black man for 5 years now and I have seen prejudice from both sides of the color-line. I wish nothing more than for people to look past appearances and color and just accept everyone for who they are as a person. Basically what I am trying to say is that white women need to think about how requests like asking to touch someone's hair may be offensive and black women need to realize that hair is not as important a part of white culture as it is in black culture and white women ask these types of questions because they are truly curious. Please realize that most white women I know would be absolutely astounded to read this blog and the comments because they would have NO idea that black women would find a request like touching their hair offensive. For most white women a request to touch their hair would be taken as a compliment whether or not they actually wanted their hair touched. It is simply a misunderstanding and the anger on both sides was misplaced and does nothing to promote understanding. I wish that women of all colors and cultures would stop the bitchiness and move forward. It makes me sad to see/hear women trashing other women when the men do enough of it without our help...
Anonymous said…
I really dig what you're saying. We all have personal boundaries. What she did was rude, and presumptuous. Ex-racist assume you'll be as ready to embrace them, as they are you. Its the fallacy white anti-racist thought, assuming once they've over it, everyone is! I reject the idea of slavery being brought into this issue, that's outlandish, and in itself is racism. 6.2% of Americans owned slaves as of 1850, I'd be willing to bet there was an equal number of abolitionists. What if she said, I don't want to touch your hair anyway, black people make up 80% of the prison population? Best way to get rid of racism, is rid yourself of it, as everyone in the world, is divided by race, culture, and religion, WE ALL got work to do.
Seadhlinn said…
Obviously, I'm late to the...um...party, but I just *had* to comment and thank you for addressing the issue so bluntly.
How appalling of that woman to presume she could touch a random stranger! And on top of that, the gall to be miffed when she didn't get her way. Part of me is horrified that she would violate someone's "personal bubble", regardless of race, but her attitude, which smacks of the idea that non-whites exist for the amusement of white people, is totally unacceptable.
At least she asked, though, which is more that I often get. For some reason, I have had a large number of strangers walk up to me (and sometimes behind me!) and start petting my hair. And then be totally unapologetic when I got mad. (My mom told me that when I was little, she had to prevent strangers from petting my hair).
Xan said…
I totally dug this blog! Witty and real...I won't say what's already been said about why it isn't okay for her to waltz over and request to put her strange hands in your hair, but I must recommend this book to you that puts a hilarious spin on situations like this & many other things white people do (like, "can you teach me how to dance?")...it's called "How To Rent A Negro" by Damali Ayo. Google it, it is *too* funny! You were clearly just "rented" by that sad misguided woman...and you owe her an invoice LOL! :)

Glad I ran into this blog! Thanks for sharing. I wear a fro myself, and I wish a mofo WOULD. I'd retaliate with something equally disrespectful about the scent of HER hair...but when I'm crossed, I'm pretty mean. Your example is brilliant!
Moya said…
So I only just came across this post, so I hope that commenting doesn't dredge it up as a bad memory. I just wanted to respond primarily to what Clabber Girl said, even though it was several months ago.

I'm also a blonde. I'm currently studying abroad in Japan, and I have had people reach out and start running their fingers through my hair, marveling about how "ふわふわ" it is. (Rough translation might be something akin to fluffy. It's used slightly differently, but that's the general idea.)

I cannot stand having my personal space invaded. Whether or not they're "just curious", I have the right to refuse, and I am not an animal to be petted. As a result of being blonde, I've been photographed by creepy old men, given a strange, stalker-ish letter from a man on the train I (used to) ride to school in the mornings, and have to deal with kids shouting, "しゃべった!" when I can speak Japanese (Translation: "It/She spoke!" in a very rude manner), or "You're awful because you're blonde!" from my little host sister.

Just because it happens to blonde, too, does not erase the racist undertones.

If anything I said is unclear, please let me know. I'm operating under a (for me, rather high) fever right now.

Time to rest.

Thank you for sharing! I'm so sorry that that happened to you.
SavvyD said…
Dude!!! Seriously! She was prob mentally a little off.

I don't think it's just a race thing, I have people ask to touch my hair because it's curly. I had friends who wanted to brush my hair, touch my hair, braid my hair and tell me they wish they had my hair. When it got really weird was when my BOSS wanted to touch it. Fucking hell, now that got really awkward. I hated that bitch.
SavvyD said…
I see you love Depeche Mode MEEE TOOO!!

OK, I'll be honest here, I have really curly hair and I still want to touch people's hair when it's curlier than mine. And with one guy I forgot to ask first. Thank God he didn't mind because mine was also curly. And I always loved/still love Martin the most in DM BECAUSE he had curly hair.
Anonymous said…
ahh~! Your interactions with your children are SO good and adorable to hear about! Way better than that white woman, who used her child as a venting board. #gross.
Anonymous said…
I'd have no problem with a 5 year old touching my hair and bravo to her for saying that. Seems fair, no? Of course when kids get into their mother's basket of hair stuff, then no, you can't get anywhere near me or my head, I'm off running a 1000 yard dash.

I'm really shocked by this post and the comments. I've somehow lived my life and dealt with very nosy people who have no sense of boundaries and never encountered this hair touching phenomenon. Hair complimenting? Sure. Offering to do someone else's hair? Of course. Awesome braids and hair feathers and insanely cool dyed hair? Absolutely. But asking to touch a stranger's hair? And then having the gall to be offended when the answer was no? Where the fuck do these people come from?

Look, if your friends with someone then touching them in a friendly way (hugs, touching their hair, whatever) is kinda normal. But that's because you've gotten to know the person and presumably have some idea about the kind of touching they are or are not okay with. The person also knows you and likes you so you don't come off as the biggest fucking creep in the world. Look, I like rubbing people's bald heads. It's kinda weird sure, but that little fuzz is insanely cool. That said, I would never even ask someone who wouldn't be cool with this and I'm sensitive of the fact that men often shave their head because they're losing hair and that this is something that might be a sensitive issue for them.

Seriously, I've been sitting here for close to ten minutes and the unmitigated gall is still just knocking me over. How the hell is this a thing? I love awesome hair and if appropriate I'll compliment it or ask for tips but I don't think that any women owes me a discussion about hair or tips. And touching? I'm not sure why this is so shocking. I've heard and seen some really insane levels of racism especially recently with the Zimmerman trial. Sexism is so ridiculously bad that people are arguing that "Blurred Lines" isn't really sexist, even though, you know, one of the authors of the song said that it's "absolutely derogatory to women." But somehow this still shocked the hell out of me.

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